Pope John Paul II offered his "personal hope" today that Poland would find "her proper place" in Europe, "between the East and the West," and appealed to the government of Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski to "gradually . . . put into effect" the 1980 Gdansk agreements that established Solidarity as an independent union.
Surprising even some veteran Vatican observers by the political toughness of his remarks, the Polish-born pontiff, on the second day of a weeklong visit, emphasized his homeland's right to sovereignty, which he said had been paid for with the loss of 6 million citizens during World War II. In remarks apparently aimed at Moscow as well as at his official hosts, he said, "The Polish nation has confirmed at a very high price its right to be sovereign master of the land that it inherits from its ancestors."
From the start of his second papal journey home John Paul II has shown a determination to challenge the Communist government's version of reality. During a meeting with Jaruzelski today at a government palace, the pope portrayed his native land as a suffering and oppressed country at a "particularly difficult moment" in its history.
Jaruzelski, his hands visibly shaking as he started to respond, rejected this view, bluntly defending his course so far--including the decision to declare military rule in December 1981 which, he implied, had saved Poland from a worse fate of collapse and Soviet intervention.
"It is said that Poland suffers," the general remarked. "But who weighed the enormity of human suffering, torment and tears, which have been successfully avoided? We do not fear the judgment of posterity. It will be just--certainly more balanced than many of the contemporary assessments."
After an exchange of short speeches broadcast nationwide on Poland's officially controlled television, the two men met privately for more than two hours in the Belveder Palace, a classical-style villa built in the 17th century and now used as a government residence.
One of the issues that had been expected to be thrashed out there was the pope's wish to see former Solidarity chairman Lech Walesa. Polish authorities had been opposed to such a meeting for its possible political ramifications, but John Paul insisted. Government spokesman Jerzy Urban told reporters this afternoon that, as a sign of official Polish hospitality, a meeting between the pope and Walesa's entire family would after all be arranged. He said it would be a "strictly private" affair at a time and place still being worked out.
Later, the pope again addressed the government at an open-air mass here. Speaking to a crowd estimated at more than a million in and around Warsaw's May 10 Stadium, he warned that the state could only fulfill its proper role if it won the consent of the governed.
When the pope arrived at the stadium, the crowd packed in the meadows outside raised their hands in a sea of V-for-victory signs. There were several pro-Solidarity banners, and some chanting of Solidarity slogans as the crowd streamed back toward the center of the city. But the incidents were much smaller in scale than last evening, when tens of thousands of people filled the streets in one of the biggest political demonstrations seen here since the crushing of Solidarity. Senior church officials said the government had lodged an immediate protest against the demonstration.
Today the pope seemed to go out of his way to lower the level of political passions that have been released by his visit. In off-the-cuff remarks to the crowd at the end of the mass, he said he wished that "both today and all the days of my pilgrimage should be days of peace--quiet, inner peace."
The pope's meeting earlier in the day with Jaruzelski ran an hour longer than scheduled. Besides the issue of Walesa, other concerns addressed during the closed-door session involved an elaboration of some of the domestic and international points outlined in the public speeches, Urban said.
In reply to the pope's appeal for a blanket amnesty for political prisoners, Urban said John Paul was told the number of people still jailed for martial law violations had dwindled to 147. This figure, however, is disputed by some church and independent sources who, using a broader definition of political prisoner, put the number at more than 1,000.
Amid much nervous anticipation over how the pope would greet Jaruzelski, John Paul II appeared cool and formal toward the Polish leader. After a cursory handshake at the door of the palace where Jaruzelski received him, the pontiff moved on into a room of waiting government and church officials, chatting with President Henryk Jablonski and seeming largely to ignore the general.
As the two leaders read their prepared remarks into standing microphones on opposite sides of the room, the physical separation seemed only to accent the wide gulf in views expressed.
While Jaruzelski termed martial law "an indispensable decision" that spared the nation, the pope appeared to blame the authorities for breaking the dialogue with society and at least contributing to basic conflict.
While Jaruzelski attacked hostile western forces for conspiring to harm Poland, John Paul II suggested Polish authorities also had a responsibility for recreating conditions for cooperation with the West.
Even their historical reference points were starkly different. Jaruzelski preferred to use as a benchmark the founding of the Polish Communist state after World War II. The pope chose as his reference the partitions of Poland and accompanying loss of Polish independence at the end of the 18th century.
Where they agreed was on reducing the threat of nuclear war. They also affirmed a common interest in improving church-state relations.
In fact, Poland's Roman Catholic Church has emerged from the political tumult of the past few years stronger than at any time since the late 1940s, when the Communists took power intending to establish an atheistic state. Since the last papal visit in 1979, it has gained considerably in terms of official permission for new parish churches and expanded Catholic press runs, thanks largely to the liberalizing trends of the Solidarity era.
Its political role in society was also recently confirmed by the government, which is trying to enlist the church's help in motivating a society that is deeply resentful toward the Jaruzelski government.
Recalling a statement by the pope during his last visit that the church sought only privileges that were "indispensable to fulfill its mission," Jaruzelski declared: "This wish is fully favored by the authorities of our state. The church has good conditions for its priestly activities. There are so many and universally known indications of that."
But what today's exchange made clear is that the church-state stakes are considerably higher now than when John Paul II was here four years ago, involving not disputes over construction of new churches or religious broadcasts on the radio, but the basic relationship between Poland's Communist authorities and the society they govern.
During the day, at a private audience, the pope told Catholic intellectuals that he would be returning to the theme of political prisoners later in his pilgrimage. The meeting was attended by several former internees, including Tadeusz Mazowiecki, a Catholic journalist who formerly edited the Solidarity weekly newspaper and was interned following the imposition of martial law.
The pope also met Barbara Sadowska, the mother of a student who died after being severely beaten by riot police in Warsaw last month.
Several foreign church leaders, including senior bishops from Hungary, Yugoslavia and East Germany, are joining the pope on his pilgrimage. Cardinals from Czechoslovakia and the Soviet republic of Latvia have, however, had to decline invitations.
In his speech at the Belveder Palace, John Paul said he had come "to be with my compatriots at a particularly difficult moment in the history of Poland after the Second World War." Despite the imposition of martial law--which was suspended in December--he still hoped, he said, for "social reform" in Poland based on "the principles so painstakingly worked out in the critical days of August 1980"--a reference to the agreements that settled the worker strikes founding the now-outlawed Solidarity movement.
The government also claims to be abiding by those agreements, although without Solidarity, which is officially regarded as having breached the accords by becoming a political threat to the state.
"This renewal is indispensable for maintaining the good name of Poland in the world," said the pope, "as well as in order to find a way out of the internal crisis and spare the sufferings of so many sons and daughters of the nation, my compatriots."
He reminded Jaruzelski of a passage in his New Year's Day message about what happens when dialogue between a government and its people is absent. This statement was interpreted by many Poles as an implicit criticism of the Jaruzelski government.
Concluding, he made clear to the general that he would continue to keep a close watch on Poland from the Vatican and would remain a power with whom the Communists will have to reckon. "I will continue to feel the effects of what could threaten Poland, what could do her damage, bring her dishonor, what could signify stagnation or depression," the pope said.